Family still awaiting findings of HSE review into newborn’s death in 2016

Inquest returns narrative verdict into death of baby five days after birth at Portlaoise Hospital

The parents of a baby boy who died five days after his birth have described the delay in discovering the cause of his death as “extremely disappointing”.

Claire and Keith Cullen from Co Laois lost their baby Aaron Ben Cullen on May 9th 2016. The infant was born five days previously at the Midlands Regional Hospital in Portlaoise where he suffered a lack of oxygen to the brain upon delivery.

Baby Aaron was born on May 4th 2016 at 35 weeks gestation following a diagnosis of excess fluid in the amniotic sac. The baby boy made no effort to breathe upon delivery and an air tube was inserted successfully 15 minutes after birth. However, the medical team struggled to improve his oxygen levels, despite delivering 100 per cent oxygen.

The baby was transferred to Dublin’s Coombe Hospital where he died in his parents’ arms on May 9th.

Previously, the inquest heard last October that the baby’s respiratory system had failed to relax after birth and the circulation system was still functioning as if he was in the womb.

The resumed inquest on Monday heard from Professor John O’Leary, Director of Pathology at the Coombe Hospital. Prof O’Leary gave the cause of death as renal vein thrombosis due to acute and chronic hypoxia contributed to by mitochondrial myopathy (neuromuscular disease).

Prof O’Leary said it was not clear if the neuromuscular disease was due to genetics or the hypoxic event and he recommended the family seek genetic counselling.

Dublin Coroner's Court heard that Claire Cullen has since given birth to a healthy baby boy and the coroner said she was 'delighted' to hear this.

"It's very difficult for the family to re-live the facts surrounding the very tragic circumstances of the death of Aaron," Dr Myra Cullinane said.

The coroner said there had been recommendations arising out of reports into the incident that she endorsed, including continued training for medical staff.

“There is always requirement for ongoing training and retraining, but none of this is of any consolation to the parents of Aaron,” the coroner said.

A narrative verdict was returned at an inquest into his death at Dublin Coroner’s Court.

In a statement after the inquest, the Cullen family thanked their legal representative Cliodhna McGuire and Brigit Doherty of Patient Focus ‘for their ongoing support throughout this process.’

They said: “We are extremely disappointed that we have had to wait almost three years to receive a cause of death for our baby son Aaron Ben Cullen who died on May 9th 2016 and therefore we have had to wait this long to obtain a birth certificate to have his existence acknowledged.”

“We are still waiting to know what the outcome of the HSE’s own review is, which has also been an extremely lengthy, traumatic process for us,” they added.